Hi Joyce, January 13, 2023
I am writing to you informally to communicate some matters that you may choose to communicate to the caucus. What I indicate below is not from the Chinese community. The opinions expressed herein are my views as a long-term Canadian.
My family arrived in 1920, and though we were impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act, I was lucky enough to be born at the moment when Canada made the sea change away from its Anglo identity and towards a multicultural one. I absorbed the ideas of being Canadian from Pierre Eliott Trudeau’s administration during the first sixteen years of my life, and I benefited from Canada’s positive international relations during my years of traveling with a maple leaf on my backpack. I encountered friendliness and positivity in all fifty-plus countries I visited in the years between the Fall of the Wall and 9/11. Unfortunately, after 9/11, Canada has been slowly infiltrated by American influence, ideas, and ways of moving through the world. I have observed the changes in Canada with interest and concern over the decades.
I am very worried that no vestige of the Canada in which I grew up and still hold in my heart will remain if this Indo-Pacific Policy continues. After years of uncontrolled American media, Canadians do not know themselves anymore – to the point that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a policy that heightens hostilities rather than seeking peace. I see the government subsuming its identity in the American one, choosing re-colonization over proud independence based on multilateralism. Conditioned by having to stand up “on guard for thee” every day of my thirteen years of schooling, I feel compelled to provide you with the suggestions enclosed.
I know as a part of the government, you are bound to support their policies, but please be a voice of reason. I appreciate all your work for our constituency, and I hope that you can speak for Canada and the necessity to distance itself from America and recommit to an independent, multilateral, peaceful policy. Our sleepwalking into a union with the United States poses no greater imminent danger to our democracy. The United States is beginning to go rogue and authoritarian, as evidenced by the last American administration whose hawkish foreign policies have been continued by President Biden.
Please revise the wording of the strategy so that it is diplomatic, rather than partisan.
The government must be the voice of reason. However, the Strategy is drafted in such a way as to generate fear (Sinophobia) and moral disgust towards China. The tone of the disgust and all the allegations are one-sided, with no credit given to any positives or balanced perspective. The government sets the tone for the nation. This Strategy signals that all Canadians can think and speak of China in this way.
China has been our trading partner since 1971 without incident until the Meng affair. It has raised 800 million people out of poverty and has not been in a war since 1979. By contrast, as Jimmy Carter himself conceded, the US is a warlike country that has been in conflict somewhere in the world nearly constantly.
Canada’s issues with China should be dealt with surgically and discretely on a case-by-case basis. Airing its grievances in the court of public opinion through its official documents encourages Canadians to look at any Chinese person as a potential spy. It is not enough to warn the reader that the government is targeting China, the country and not the Chinese people. This warning alone does not shield the Chinese Canadian community because nothing in our education system or media equips Canadians to make this distinction. I know; I asked the VSB to specifically cover the issue of anti-Chinese racism in schools and was refused. While there may be no connection, it is highly disturbing that in Toronto, two days ago, eight teenage girls swarmed a Chinese man and stabbed him to death. Even if the government doesn’t change its policy, it can revise how it is framed on the official website in more discreet and diplomatic terms to avoid inflaming rhetoric. I hope you can persuade the government that it is necessary to help dampen down anti-Chinese racism.
Please ask the government to reconsider its approach to China
Equating Russia with China because they are both authoritarian states is reductionistic. America almost became an authoritarian state during the Trump period. Canada must have a more nuanced approach based on its own peaceful experience with China until America requested that we arrest Meng in 2018. Although the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs are experts in Europe, it is not appropriate to use a Eurocentric lens to handle issues in Asia.
Since the reasons for the policy are unbalanced and skewed, the policy itself is unbalanced and thus flawed. Please ask the Ministers of Parliament to reconsider and dial back from the nuclear option by voluntarily entering into dangerous waters alongside American-guided missile warships. The best option would be to remain neutral. If that is not possible, there are many less invasive options for expressing allyship to the American.
The argument that Canada and China should lessen contact because we do not share common values is specious. Both share a preference for peace. Besides staying out of war, China now contributes to the United Nations Peacekeeping missions as Canada once did. The government must clearly separate our country’s needs and interests from those of the Americans. As China is still our number two partner, upon which we still depend, it is in the interests of our country to antagonize them as little as possible.
The strategy is overly optimistic that we will be able to effectively deal with existential issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and world peace, while the West treats China as an adversary.
The Ministers must focus on the real, imminent danger that threatens democracy, which is being caught in the net of the American military-industrial complex, rather than the pervasive but unsupported (at least publicly) red herring of allegations of Chinese interference.
At this point, American influence poses a more imminent and existential risk to Canada’s independence than Chinese interference, as conservative American interests own most of our mainstream press. American content knows no borders, while Canadian content is not well-supported.
Thus, there has been so much infiltration of American ideas into the Canadian public that even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs completely conflates our interests, perspectives, and goals. The Indo-Pacific Strategy will get Canada even more deeply entangled in America’s military-industrial complex, whose interests lie in militarizing the world for its profits. The reason why English Canada came into being is that United Empire Loyalists wanted to flee the violence of the American Revolution and its culture of violence. The highest points of the Canadian experience are when it resisted American pressure to join in its fight against imagined enemies, i.e. Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba, and its earlier normalization of the USSR and China. Once Canada loses its desire to distance itself from American aggression, it will sleepwalk into blending itself into the United States.
This Indo-Pacific Strategy is a critical moment because it aims to cut down Canada’s trade with China, its second-largest trading partner. This trade relationship is like a fifty-year-old olive tree that would otherwise continue to bear fruit if tended, while proposing to plant saplings in Asia to replace it. Losing its second-largest partner would make Canada more dependent on the United States, taking away its wiggle room to make decisions in Canadian interests. Tethering itself to a declining power, which, as shown in the last administration, demonstrated a tendency towards authoritarian rule, is a danger to Canadian democracy.
Canada’s relationship with China was untroubled for nearly fifty years until it arrested and detained Meng at the request of the Americans. Now that the issue has been resolved, it is more reasonable for Canada to reconcile with China. Anger over the treatment of China’s two Michaels is no reason to tie Canada to the United States. As Pierre Trudeau once said, when governing, “Reason before Passion.”
In order to protect Canada from the imminent threat of loss of independence, the ministers should concentrate on generating and diversifying ties with America. Getting more entangled in the web of American strategies will increasingly lead the government to act in ways that are not true to Canadian values of peace and tolerance, and would disturb the conscience of Canadians, such as the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. At this point, foreign interference in China is a red herring in comparison to the American net that has been increasingly closing on us ever since Free Trade began. If we become less able to resist American demands to invest in their military projects, we will have to divert money from the social programs that distinguish Canada from the United States.
The allegations against China
After the way in which the Trump administration revealed its propensity towards deception, America, Canada needs to be more skeptical. The Americans and British have a track record of using deception to justify their aggressive actions abroad. It was Chretien’s skepticism of the fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction that saved Canada from losing lives. Even if some of the Chinese allegations are true, the assessment of them should be tempered with the knowledge that Anglo-American countries also do the same things. This is acknowledged even in the Strategy, which has plans for increasing surveillance activities in Asia. Some humility should protect from overreaction. We depend on the government to be balanced and tempered in its judgment and public communications with an eye to protecting Canadians, including Canadians of Chinese extraction. If Canada finds it must act, it must do so coolly and surgically so as not to cause any unnecessary collateral damage.
It appears, by the way, the government is expressing outrage towards China, that they have jumped on the American moral crusade. America’s stance is really a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The Americans do not come with clean hands. It is not for America to condemn China for failing to comply with its “international rules-based order” when it has routinely discredited the United Nations, i.e., in the settler colony’s refusals to sign UNDRIP until recently.
Under the British Empire, the Anglo-Americans justified their involvement in other parts of the world as the “white man’s burden” to spread Western civilization. Nowadays, America justifies its aggressions overseas under the guise of freedom and democracy. However, the intent is still to keep the Anglo-American way dominant in places far beyond the Continental United States. All the efforts to contain China are aimed at keeping the American way dominant in Asia. But what is the justification for America being dominant in Asia in the first place, except for the usual colonial-period reasons of knowing better than the locals.
If Canada is really committed to decolonization, it must divest from organizations such as Five Eyes (consisting of Britain and its former settler colonies) and instead invest in those organizations which make a place for former colonies, like the United Nations.
I am considering preparing a petition as follows. Please let me know if you have any thoughts.
We, the undersigned, are concerned that the Indo-Pacific Strategy (formerly known as Asia Pacific Policy) released in November 2022 represents a radical departure from Canada’s customary foreign policy focused on peacekeeping. The new Strategy is vague about its plans for developing trade with nations, but precise about increasing Canada’s military involvement in Asia. Under the new Strategy, Canada will tie itself to democratic allies to help America remain the dominant superpower in Asia. America has chosen a course of strategic confrontation towards its major rival.
The Strategy requires Canada to invest millions of taxpayer dollars into bolstering American-led spy services and coalition forces deployed primarily for the purpose of confronting and containing China, its superpower rival. Canada has already begun asserting its support for America by escorting American guided-missile warships through contested waters.
The Strategy strengthens our relationship with America and its allies, who are mostly comprised of former imperial powers or white settler colonies, yet it makes an enemy of America’s Asian superpower rival, China – our second largest trading partner, with whom we have partnered constructively since 1971.
Our national interest lies in staying out of the superpower rivalry while remaining on good trading terms with America and China. Ultimately, the new Indo-Pacific Strategy compromises Canada’s independence and interests, and undermines our proud Canadian identity as peace-loving people, as well as fuelling Sinophobia to justify Canada’s actions abroad.
We ask that the Liberal Government withdraw the current Indo-Pacific Strategy and remove Canada’s resources from the partisan superpower struggle in Asia. Canada can serve a more constructive role by encouraging our democratic allies to find common ground rather than following its American-led friends in alienating “authoritarian nations.”
Whether we share political values or not, we are all global neighbours. We must learn to trust each other to work effectively on issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, nuclear arms reduction, the proliferation of misinformation, and world peace. Since Canada is a multicultural multinational country, our next Asia Pacific Policy should concentrate on non-exploitative Asian trade and support multilateral, humanitarian, and indigenous organizations rather than partisan Western military interests abroad. Canada’s foreign policy not only affects our reputation abroad but shapes the character of our citizens and our society within Canada.
We ask that our government’s actions abroad be true to our societal values of peace, integrity, and compassion, and our national commitment to inclusion, non-discrimination, and decolonization.
(By Nora Duen Yee Ng, a granddaughter of a man from Kaiping Guangdong who came to Canada in 1920. Nora was born in Windsor Ontario in 1968, became a Canadian lawyer, has also worked in Chongqing and Hong Kong, has travelled extensively and is now a Master Level’s SFU student. )
The Cover image: MP Joyce Murray. Credit: joycemurray.libparl.ca
The Voices & Bridges publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive discussion and debate on important issues. Views represented in the articles are author’s, and not necessary reflect the views of the V&B.